Portland Beavers 2004 Preview

<b>2004 Season Preview</b><br><br> A lot of talent could be on the Beavers for 2004, or if you liked last years team you will get to see a good many of them again in 2004. Unlike many Portland teams in previous years, this team will have some of the Padres best prospects, especially for position players.

Projected Line-Up
1b - Tagg Bozied/Todd Sears SP - Dennis Tankersly (RHP)
2b- Bernie Castro SP - Brian Sweeney (RHP)
SS- Jose Nieves SP - Chris Oxpring (RHP)
3b - Ben Risinger/Rico Washington SP- Marty McLeary(RHP)
C- Humberto Quintero SP- Matt Bruback (RHP)
RF - Xavier Nady/Alex Fernandez RP - Blaine Neal (RHP
CF - Henri Stanley/Gene Kingsale RP - Edgar Huerta (LHP)
LF - Jon Knott /Henri Stanley Closer- Bart Miadich (RHP)

Pitching - Big question is whether Dennis Tankersly will finally pitch to his talent. Dennis had a very good spring and could be the Padres fifth starter by mid-season. Rick Sweet, the former manager of the Portland Beavers, stated in an interview he thinks Tank needs another year in Portland, mainly to focus on the mental aspects of pitching. The tools are there, its just becoming more consistent with his mechanics and his approach.

Another outside candidate also could be Chris Oxspring who might have had the best year in Mobile of anyone in 2003, going 10-6 with a 2.92 ERA. He put up good numbers with a decent BB/K ratio, although he did walk (62) quite a few for the number of innings pitched (135.2). According to Baseball America, Oxspring has a fastball that can touch the mid nineties, and supposedly even a better curve. Chris seems to perform better when he is starting than coming in as middle relief, as he did in 2003 with Mobile. One thing that should be of some relief to all San Diego fans, he's not another sinker ball or "control pitcher", that we have become accustomed to with the Padres, such as Carlton Lower, Brian Tollberg and Mike Bynum. Sweeney, McLeary and Bruback seemed headed for "4A land."

The relief pitching should be the strength of the pitching staff, especially if Edgar Huerta develops into a much needed left handed relief pitcher for the Padres. Also, Blaine Neal was one of the leaders in the Pacific Coast League for saves last year will also contribute. Keep an eye on Bart Miadich who should be the closer for the Beavers.

Position Players - The real talent of the team, especially in the outfield with Xavier Nady and Jon Knott. Knott could be the best player of all. Knott, an unsigned free agent out of Mississippi State, has been a major success story for the Padres. Knott, 25, was named the Padres co-Minor League player of the year in 2002 with Josh Barfield, where he hit .341/.414/.540, with 8 Hrs and 73 RBIs. In 2003 at Mobile Knott hit .252/.387/.514, with 27 HRs and 82 RBIs. Knott led the Southern League in HRs, has a strong arm and can play either corner slot and 1b. In Mobile I saw Knott probably end John Rocker's career by taking him deep over the center field wall. In a late season call up to Portland, Knott his .346 in the final seven games with one home run and 5 RBIs. Although his batting average went down in Mobile, his OPS stayed above .900. If Knott can avoid becoming too home run happy, he could force his way onto the Padre team with some solid performances in Portland.

Xavier Nady was up and down between San Diego and Portland last year. The Padres sent Nady to Portland mainly because as someone who plays the corner OF/1b position, he is going to have a tough time supplanting Brian Giles, Phil Nevin or Ryan Klesko. The Padres are trying to make Nady into a CF, which could allow him to return to San Diego as a fourth OF. Nady must also hit, and show that his batting struggles are behind him.

Humberto Quintero also emerged as a prospect last year at Mobile. Quintero, part of what the Padres picked up in the D'Angelo Jimenez deal is a very solid defensive catcher, a Southern League all-star in 2003. Last year was the first year in which he actually hit, but still posted only a .732 OPS. He tends to hit a lot of balls to right field and will have to increase his power numbers to get the Padres attention.

Tagg Bozied, Bernie Castro and Henri Stanley are all good players, but will have difficulty cracking the Padres team because of the positions they play. Of the three, Stanley probably has the best opportunity to crack the Padres team as a reserve outfielder, but that seems to be the spot Nady is training for. Alex Fernandez, who had a nice year last year, 303/.327/.454 with 10 HRs, 52 RBIs and 16 stolen bases, should also be a factor for the Beavers this year.

MadFriars.com Top 40 - Nine - #5 Jon Knott, #6 Humberto Quintero, #13 Dennis Tankersley, #15 Alex Fernandez, #19 Bernie Castro, #24 Tagg Bozied, #21 Chris Oxspring, #22 Henri Stanley, and #35 Rico Washington. (previous MLB experience not factored in to for Tankersley)

Baseball America's Top 30 Prospects - Seven - #7 Jon Knott, #10 Tagg Bozied, #11 Chris Oxspring, #17 Edgar Huerta, #19 Humberto Quintero, #26 Henri Stanley and #25 Bernie Castro. Also, Dennis Tankersly and Xavier Nady would be on any prospect list if not for their previous MLB experience. Also, Alex Fernandez is one of the better outfield prospects in the Padres system.

Prediction - Unlike last years team, there will be a lot of talent on the Beavers, especially in the outfield with Knott and Nady. Depending on how the big team does in San Diego, could be a very tough team.

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